David Blackburn

IDS versus Osborne: there can only be one winner

IDS versus Osborne: there can only be one winner
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The Quiet Man is an odd moniker for Iain Duncan Smith. There was nothing quiet about his opposition to the Maastricht Treaty and he turned up the volume when he told the Tories to ‘unite or die’. Matthew d’Ancona observes that IDS is a noisy maverick again. IDS has threatened to resign if his welfare reforms are obstructed. Principles are one thing and tactics another. As d’Ancona notes:

‘Such talk is fine if a minister means he will quit if he himself fails. But in IDS's case it has sounded more like a threat: if the leaders of the coalition do not give him what he wants, he will resign and bring the temple walls crashing down around him.’

D’Ancona thinks that IDS believes that he and his moral crusade are indispensible. They are, in the context of this coalition. With William Hague transformed into a quasi-Cameroon and Liam Fox ostracised, IDS is the Tory right’s representative in government – Defender of the Faith as it were. Equally, Cameron cannot do without him. IDS’ reforms are a rood screen keeping Cameron’s eccentric parishioners from the hallowed chancel; they also give the government an impetus beyond deficit reduction. Remove IDS and the coalition’s two dimensional balance is disturbed.

Though it would be weakened politically, the government could withstand IDS’ resignation. However, it will collapse if spending cuts are stunted. George Osborne is powerful even by the standard of chancellors; and he is determined, so at the very least he will trump IDS. The Quiet Man will have to accept Osborne’s compromise, pray his sums are exact and start living up to his name.